Apparently, there is or was a possibility of Rep. James Oberstar (D – MN) might get a nod from Obama to be Transportation Secretary. Earlier, I had mentioned that if Obama got elected, we would still need to hold his feet to the fire. This is one of those times. Earlier, in 2006, The Space Review published an essay about the possibility of Oberstar effectively killing the space tourism industry. From the article:
In 2004 Congress passed the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act (CSLAA) which provided a legal basis for the regulatory activities of the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation’s operations in the manned suborbital rocket field. The CSLAA was based on the principle that the primary duty of the government is to ensure the safety of the uninvolved public and if individuals wanted to risk their necks flying in rocketplanes that was mostly their business. At the time Oberstar tried, but failed, to amend the act to include language ordering that the industry be regulated almost to the same safety standards of the airlines.
In spite of some weasel wording, the hard legal requirements of Oberstar’s proposed regulation would effectively kill the whole entrepreneurial suborbital industry. The cost not only of developing a manned rocket that complies with the kind of safety burden that Oberstar wants, not to mention the astronomical cost of proving that a vehicle actually does comply with the regulations, will make it all but impossible even for the deepest pockets to build anything.
So, if you see space tourism as being one of those exciting concepts being expanded for the future, it does not look like Oberstar is your man. This is an industry I would love to see move forward and can’t wait until I can afford a flight.